SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — Illinois Catholic bishops have taken a stand against legalizing recreational use of marijuana.
The six bishops issued a statement Monday that they oppose legalization because they are “committed to the common good.”
“We ask lawmakers to say ‘no’ to legalization of marijuana, as Pope Francis explained in 2014 when speaking about marijuana and other recreational drugs: ‘… To say this ‘no,’ one has to say ‘yes’ to life, ‘yes’ to love, ‘yes’ to others, ‘yes’ to education, ‘yes’ to greater job opportunities. If we say ‘yes’ to all these things, there will be no room for illicit drugs, for alcohol abuse, for other forms of addiction’,” the statement said.
Illinois lawmakers are poised to push legislation to permit recreational cannabis use . Gov. J.B. Pritzker campaigned on the issue.
The bishops say legalization will only add to the country’s crisis with illicit drugs and prescription opioids. They point to peer-reviewed research that indicates marijuana is addictive and studies that show addicts started with alcohol and marijuana.
They also said sentencing reform, not marijuana legalization, was the solution to the over-incarceration of marijuana users.
“Advocates of legalization rightly point to the racial disparity of our jail and prison populations, noting that marijuana infractions often lead to lives trapped in the criminal justice system. We recognize the truth of that premise, while observing that recent sentencing reforms should soon reverse that trend, since possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana now results in a ticket of up to $200 and no jail time,” the statement explained.
“As lawmakers consider this issue, it is important to remember they are not only debating legalization of marijuana, but also commercialization of a drug into an industry the state will profit from. In seeking the common good, the state should protect its citizens,” the bishops said.
They dispute advocates’ claims that legalization will eliminate the black market. They say it’s possible the underground will simply sell it more cheaply and to minors.
Pritzker believes taxes on cannabis sales could produce up to $1 billion a year.
Crux staff contributed to this report.